Dabie Tsai

Always challenge yourself, be open to new experiences and new things, and keep learning.


Dabie Tsai is a former partner with KPMG where she performed various roles over 23 years for the firm. She has extensive experience in a wide range of specialties including both US GAAP and IFRS, SEC periodic and IPO filings for both domestic and foreign filers, SOX 404 controls and processes, credit risk, consolidations, mergers and acquisitions, and matters of corporate governance. Dabie worked with KPMG in the US, Canada, Spain and Chile, and is fluent in English, Spanish and Chinese.

She most recently served as the Global Lead Audit Engagement Partner for the largest global audit client of KPMG Spain, a global financial institution with 700 billion euros in assets. Prior to her time with KPMG Spain, Dabie Tsai held a number of lead roles with KPMG US. She served as the Lead Partner for the Global Consumer Banking segment of KPMG US’s largest global banking audit client, a global financial institution with assets in excess of $1.8 trillion. She was also the Global Lead Partner for a leading Multilateral Development Bank focused on development in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as the primary delivery partner for the world’s largest Multilateral Development Bank.

Dabie Tsai has been leading KPMG’s interactions with her clients’ audit committees and board of directors, senior management, internal audit and regulators in her 11 years as an audit partner. She has also led large multidisciplinary teams of more than 250 team members across the globe in serving her clients.

Dabie Tsai has been singled out for numerous awards during her time with the firm, such as KPMG’s Mentoring Award in recognition of her efforts in developing and sponsoring young talents. She has also held a number of leadership positions, including her roles as the Partner Champion for both KPMG’s Network of Women and its Asian Pacific Islanders Network. Dabie has been on and led teams of reviewers for the firm’s Quality Performance and Compliance Program in the US and Latin America, and has developed and delivered numerous national training sessions on topics ranging from audit methodology to technical accounting matters. She was also a member of the firm’s Lead Partners Forum and the KPMG Executive Leadership Institute for Women, as well as a graduate of the KPMG-INSEAD International Banking Executive Programme.

Additionally, her leadership abilities extend beyond her work with KPMG, as evidenced by her role as the Audit Committee Chairman on the board of directors of Oxfam America, an organization dedicated to the eradication of poverty.

Dabie Tsai has published in a leading Spanish financial newspaper, and has spoken to a variety of audiences, including at industry and professional forums and universities.

In her personal life, Dabie Tsai has a number of interests that see her participate in activities across all walks of life. As a passionate traveler, she speaks multiple languages and has lived in five countries spanning four different continents. To further her knowledge of the world, she is a dedicated reader with a deep belief in the power of education and learning. She is interested in history and the arts, in particular ballet. Dabie also has two degrees in piano performance from the Royal College of Music in Toronto, Canada and the London College of Music in England.

When did you know you were interested in the finance industry?

From when I was young, I was always very good at math, including placing in the top in national math contests in Canada throughout high school. As the eldest child, I also helped my parents in liaising with their professional advisors, lawyers and accountants from an early age. Our family accountant suggested that I look into the accounting and auditing profession when I was in university. So one thing led to another, and I started with KPMG, one of the now-Big Four accounting firms, once I graduated. I had been with the firm for 23 years, the last 11 as an audit partner serving the global banking industry.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I am a very organized person, and a big list-keeper. I think having a list helps to orient your thoughts and your days. My lists may be constantly changing, but they provide an anchor in plowing through my to-dos. If I just accomplished something that’s not on my list, I will even add it to the list just to be able to scratch it off! Crossing items off my to-do list gives me a satisfaction and sense of accomplishment.

I am an extremely productive person and I think being persistent, goal-oriented coupled with being organized help me get results.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I think the most important thing is to execute. You can have many wonderful ideas, but until you try it, and do it, they are just floating out there in the cloud. I think it’s just as important to surround yourself with great people. Having a great team will make executing great ideas that much easier and better.

What’s one trend that excites you?

The fact that the world continues to get smaller and smaller. There are so many different cultures and people in the world, and the more we learn about each other and learn from each other, the better it can only make all of us. I am a huge traveler, and while I love my frequent flyer points, I can’t wait for the day when we can be beamed up and beamed down instantly. Of course – I’d still expect to have frequent beaming points!

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I am disciplined, persistent and result-oriented.

What advice would you give your younger self?

That I am a very strong woman, that I should always believe in myself, and to always trust your gut!

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

I want to be cryogenically frozen when I leave this world so I may be unfrozen and return to my life one day when science is advanced enough to perform that procedure.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Always challenge yourself, be open to new experiences and new things, and keep learning. I believe the day we stop learning and stop being curious about life around us is the day we become stagnant and start going backwards.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Pay it forward – surround yourself with good people, and be a mentor and a sponsor for the people coming up after you. Working yourself out of your current job is the best way for you to continue develop and advance, and to provide opportunities for your team.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I don’t look at any past experiences as a failure. I look at all my life experiences, positive and negative, as a learning. I believe everything happens for a reason, and if something didn’t work out the way I had anticipated, it’s because something else was meant to be. I don’t regret anything in my life, because I truly believe everything I have been through, good or bad, made me the person I am today, and I feel very blessed about my life.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Be persistent. If you really want to achieve something, work hard at it, ask for help, and don’t give up because of hiccups along the way.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

It wasn’t even $100, but I was just in Petra, Jordan recently, and after the Petra by Night event, while everyone else was walking out the ancient city, a Nebatean living inside Petra asked me if I wanted to ride the donkey out, so I took him up on the offer and was the only one riding the donkey all the way out! I enjoyed not having to fight the crowds on foot.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?

The iTranslate app on my phone is a great app that allows me to instantly be able to understand or convey a word in any language in my frequent travels around the world. Whether it’s putting in a word in English and use it to translate to the 101 languages in the app so I know how to express it in another language, or to type in the foreign word in the app so I understand the meaning; this app has been a handy and productive travel-mate.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Regardless of how far women have come in business, I think there are still some intrinsic differences between men and women. Reading the book Knowing Your Value: Women, Money and Getting What You’re Worth by Mika Brzezinski was an eye opener for me years ago, and I highly recommend it.

What is your favorite quote?

I have so many! But some of my favorites are:
– Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle
– Everything happens for a reason
– God doesn’t put in front of you what you can’t handle

Key learnings:

  • Be kind to yourself and to others
  • Keep pushing yourself even if the obstacles look big
  • Always surround yourself with good friends, mentors, sponsors, and people overall